Harvard Medical School will no longer submit data to US News & World Report for the magazine’s annual ranking of the “best medical schools,” making it the second graduate school at the university to boycott the list in recent months, the school’s dean said on Tuesday.
In a letter, Dr. George Daley, dean of the medical school, said he had debated the decision since becoming dean six years ago and was inspired by a group of top legal professionals who withdrew from the rankings last fall.
“My concerns, and the perspectives I have heard from others, are philosophical rather than methodological, and stem from the fundamental belief that rankings support the lofty aspirations of educational excellence, graduate preparation, and compassionate and equitable patient care that we strive to promote are unable to meaningfully reflect our medical education programs,” said Dr. Daley.
US News has published the rankings for decades, and while they have come under increasing criticism, they continue to be an influential guide for students and their parents during the college selection process.
dr Daley said the rankings create what he called “perverse incentives” for institutions to report misleading information and set policies that improve rankings. Although Harvard Medical School will no longer share key data with the magazine, it will continue to share some of the data on its admissions website.
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Harvard Medical School ranked first in the magazine’s 2023 list of top medical schools for research released last spring, and New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine took second place. Third place went to Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, and the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.
According to US News, medical schools are evaluated based on faculty resources, academic performance of inducted students, and qualitative assessments by the schools and residency directors. More than 190 medical and osteopathic schools were surveyed by the journal. This information, along with the results of peer assessment surveys, was used to calculate the overall ranking.
“What matters most to me as a dean, alumnus, and faculty member is not the #1 ranking, but the quality and richness of the educational experience we provide at Harvard Medical School that fosters personal growth and lifelong learning,” said Dr . Daley.
Eric Gertler, the chairman and chief executive officer of US News, said in a statement Wednesday that the company believes students deserve access to all the data and information needed to choose the best school for them.
He said the company is aware of the challenges of comparing academic institutions across a common dataset, adding, “That’s why we’ve consistently stated that the rankings should be a component in a prospective student’s decision-making process.”
It was also unclear what impact Harvard’s decision would have on other medical schools’ participation. Last fall, many of the nation’s top law schools announced they would no longer participate in the rankings after those at Harvard and Yale said they were withdrawing.
In response, the magazine said this month that it would make several changes in the next edition of the law school rankings, including giving more weight to those whose graduates are pursuing advanced degrees or school-funded scholarships to work in public agencies that pay for lower wages. Factors such as indicators of student debt or school spending per student are no longer taken into account. The magazine said its rankings would also rely less on law school reputation polls submitted by academics, attorneys and judges.
While top-flight schools can weather potential consequences of dropping out of the rankings, there is a sense of hesitancy in lesser-known schools that depend on ratings to attract students.
Angela Onwuachi-Willig, the dean of Boston University, which ranked 17th among law schools, said lower-ranked schools, applicants and employers would benefit from the “free marketing” of rankings.